Fridley receives $100,000 grant for TOD area planning project

Funds will support plans for future developments

Fridley’s planning project for the area south of the Northstar station was one of several projects that received funds from the Metropolitan Council.

The Metropolitan Council offered leftover Livable Communities Demonstration Account (LCDA) funds in a competitive grant application process to metropolitan cities. The purpose of the grant program is to be a catalyst for projects that will enhance the potential for a future development or redevelopment project.

In December, the Metropolitan Council approved $10.1 million in grants to projects that will help promote economic development, housing and jobs along transit corridors, where there is, or will be, transit infrastructure and high-frequency transit service.

Communities awarded funding are Bloomington, Coon Rapids, Eden Prairie, Fridley, Minneapolis and St. Paul. Fridley received $100,000, the maximum awarded in the “predevelopment project” category.

“We had applied for three grants, but this is the one we got funded for Fridley,” Fridley Planning Manager Julie Jones wrote in an email to Sun Newspapers. She noted that the city has been waiting to hear back on the three separate projects in the same area since August. “I am excited about this next big project.”

Departing from a standard strip-mall appearance, the city code would have longer buildings “divided into smaller increments ... through use of articulation of the façade.”  This would include having some sections set back farther than others, using different textures and materials and varying the rooflines. (File photo, courtesy of the city of Fridley)
Departing from a standard strip-mall appearance, the development could include having some sections set back farther than others, using different textures and materials and varying the rooflines. (File photo, courtesy of the city of Fridley)

The Transit Oriented Development (TOD) grant will help fund the creation of Fridley’s Northstar TIF Master Plan for the area south of the rail station.

The future Transit TIF District lies within a TOD zoning overlay district that the city designated in 2011. The TOD district generally includes the area bounded by the rail station on the north, I-694 on the south, the Mississippi River on the west and Main Street on the east.

The grant is meant to support the area planning process by providing land-use alternatives analyses to encourage more transit-friendly development near commuter rail.

The city has two years to complete the TOD master plan and plans to hire a consultant to assist with the preparation of the plan. As was the case with the East River Road Corridor Study, the city will hold meetings with business representatives and residents of the area to get their input as the plan is developed.

The purpose of this TIF district will be to use tax increment created from development projects to fund infrastructure connections to transit in the area.

A building on a corner lot would be required to have both front and side faces of the building no farther back than 15 feet from the lot lines. (File photo, courtesy of the city of Fridley)
A building on a corner lot would be required to have both front and side faces of the building no farther back than 15 feet from the lot lines. (File photo, courtesy of the city of Fridley)

In the application to obtain the TOD funding, Fridley staff explained that developers interested in developing a 25-acre section of vacant land in the northeast corner of I-694 and East River Road in the future Transit TIF District were having difficulty envisioning infrastructure that staff has already obtained funding to complete and future projects for which staff is seeking funding.

To market this and other open land areas for redevelopment, staff said, the city needs a master plan for the area that maps out potential infrastructure and changes in land uses that the TOD zoning regulations permit.

The TOD overlay code requires buildings to be built close to the street with sidewalks and lighting that creates an environment that is more convenient for a person on foot or on bike.

The two projects for which Fridley applied for grants but did not receive funding were for design of a pedestrian bridge over University Avenue at 61st Street and funds for land needed to create a crossing of the BNSF railroad tracks at 57th Avenue.

Those who have questions about the grant may direct them to Fridley’s Planning Manager Julie Jones by calling 763-572-3599.

About the grants

The funds are awarded from a newer category of grants within Metropolitan Council’s Livable Communities program to advance Transit-Oriented Development (TOD).

Awards from the Livable Communities Demonstration Account and Tax Base Revitalization Account TOD funding categories support development along rail and bus routes that is high density, mixed use, near transit stations or bus stops, and designed to be pedestrian friendly.

“Investing in development and jobs along transit corridors is a key Council priority,” Council Chair Susan Haigh said.

“These are smart investments. As we continue to build out the region’s transit system, we need to ensure that transit supports the nearby land uses, and that the nearby land uses support these major transit investments. Development has to go hand-in-glove with transit investment so both can be successful. At the same time, we’re helping to create jobs, as well as affordable and market-rate housing and getting people where they need and want to go,” she added.

TOD grants are awarded on a competitive basis.

“Projects awarded grants must meet the evaluation criteria, be able to generate jobs and/or affordable housing, encourage private investment and serve as a model of transit-oriented development,” Guy Peterson, Metropolitan Council Community Development Director said.

Anticipated outcomes from these grants, overall, include 870 new housing units, including 376 affordable units, 1,535 construction jobs, clean up of four acres of polluted land, nearly $205 million in private investment and nearly $12 million in other public investment.

TOD funding comes from Livable Communities grants that the Council previously awarded to communities, but which were returned to the Council when qualified development projects did not move forward as planned during the recession. Council officials say the downturn in the economy meant that some communities had to postpone or abandon planned development projects that were funded with Livable Communities dollars.

The Metropolitan Council is the regional planning organization in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Council runs the regional bus and light rail system and Northstar commuter rail, collects and treats wastewater, coordinates regional water resources, plans regional parks and administers funds that provide housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income families. The Council board is appointed by the state governor.